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CREAM OF THE CROP: Presenting the 2017-18 All-Covington News basketball teams
Hagans POY
Newton's 5-star junior PG Ashton Hagans has won almost every postseason player of the year accolade to be won, including the All-Covington News Player of the Year. - photo by Jason Mussell | The Covington News

COVINGTON, Ga. -- To say it was a special season for the Newton Rams basketball teams would probably be a bit of an understatement. 

Both the boys and girls squads made joint history by advancing to the Class AAAAAAA Final Four, making Newton the first school in Newton County Schools history to carry two teams that far in the state basketball tournament at the same time. 

Of course, the Lady Rams took it a step further by playing for the program’s first state championship since 1963. And while the other teams in the county weren’t as successful in the win column, the truth is the county’s other four teams — the Alcovy and Eastside boys and girls — all narrowly missed postseason berths by losing close state tourney qualifying games in their respective region tournaments. 

Combined, the Eastside and Alcovy boys and girls teams lost their four first round region tournament games by a combined 15 points. 

The Eastside girls, in particular, were a tremendously improved team in coach Gladys King’s third season. The Lady Eagles were finished 9-14 overall and 6-6 in Region 4-AAAA, good for fourth place. It was Eastside’s best region finish since it capped the 2014-15 campaign trailing only Henry County in the region standings. 

Eastside sophomore Alysee Dobbs found herself on the All-TCN first team for the second straight season. - photo by Tyler Williams

Meanwhile, Eastside’s boys noticeably improved down the stretch of the season as coach Brent Wren found himself having to replace close to 80 percent of his offense from the 2016-17 state tournament team.

The Eagles gave us perhaps one of our most electrifying moments of the season when, in the waning seconds of their last game against Alcovy, Killien Glover knocked down an improbable 80-foot, full-court heave to send the game into overtime. 

Both Eagles teams lost narrowly to Woodward Academy in the first round of the Region 4-AAAA tournament. Meanwhile, Alcovy’s boys squad found some late-season momentum that almost carried it past Evans in their first round Region 3-AAAAAA tournament game. 

Alcovy fell to Evans by one point in overtime, keeping it from a state tournament berth. The Lady Tigers had a similar heartbreaking 37-34 loss to Lakeside that kept them out of further postseason play. 

All and all, it was an entertaining season that honestly left us with more questions than answers and things to look forward to for 2018. 

Alcovy's AJ Paschal is arguably the county's top point guard not named Ashton Hagans. - photo by Gabriel Stovall

We want to congratulate our players of the year, both from Newton. Ashton Hagans for the boys and Jurnee Smith for the girls. 

Hagans has won virtually every postseason accolade imaginable after a stellar junior year where he averaged almost 21 points and 11 assists per game. He led a young Newton squad to a Final Four appearance. Meanwhile, Smith averaged close to 16 points per game, and combined her TCN Player of the Year honor with First Team All-Region accolades, along with Region 8-AAAAAAA girls Player of the Year, Lexii Chatman. 

Both Chatman — last year’s TCN Girls Player of the Year — and Smith could’ve won player of the year honors without much argument. But we gave the nod to Smith, just because of her stellar and unflappable play down the stretch of the season. 

Smith, in the words of girls coach of the year, Tiffani Johnson, was the “poise” of the Lady Rams’ Class AAAAAAA state runner-up squad. Her ball handling, steady decision making and timely scoring in clutch, high-pressure moments helped tip the scales her way. 

In this edition, we’ve got Q&As with our two players of the year. We also present our full All-County squads, complete with plenty of solid photos and we’ll take a look at five top storylines we’ll be following during the basketball offseason. 

Enjoy our special All-TCN Basketball section, and congratulate these players and coaches for treating us to some quality basketball right in our own backyard. 

Alcovy sophomore Serai Johnson is one of a number of sophomore top performers for the Lady Tigers. - photo by Tom White

All-TCN Boys Team

Player of the Year: Ashton Hagans, Newton

Coach of the Year: Rick Rasmussen, Newton

First Team Roster

Dre Butler, Newton 

Armani Harris, Newton

Tyrease Brown, Newton

A.J. Paschal, Alcovy

Dai’Veon Robinson, Eastside

Second Team Roster

Tre Clark, Newton

Killien Glover, Eastside

Donald Kay, Alcovy

Tyler Glover, Newton

Jerry Mays, Eastside

Honorable Mention: Gabe Gates, Newton; Shaquille Brown, Alcovy; Juwan Johnson, Newton; Dray Middlebrooks, Alcovy; Ennis Wilfolk, Social Circle.

NHS Girls
Four of the five Newton Lady Rams seniors pictured were named to the All-Covington News girls basketball team, including Jurnee Smith, the All-TCN girls player of the year. - photo by Jason Mussell | The Covington News

All-TCN Girls Team

Player of the Year: Jurnee Smith, Newton

Coach of the Year: Tiffani Johnson, Newton

First Team Roster

Lexii Chatman, Newton

Erianna Card, Newton

Diamond Swift, Newton

Alysee Dobbs, Eastside

Ariyan Franklin, Alcovy

Second Team Roster

Rachel Hilliard, Newton

Jada Franklin, Newton

Je-nya Smith, Newton

Serai Johnson, Alcovy

Ta’Niyah Douglas, Eastside

Honorable Mention: Takiya Cotton, Newton; Amiyah Williams, Social Circle; Ajoyus Tuggle, Alcovy; Chasity Smith, Eastside; Nia Davis, Eastside.